Collection: YOONJEE KWAK


Clay allows me to tell the story of my memories that are left behind from diverse and unpredictable relationships between others and myself. My memories are expressed by using precarious and fragile forms. These memories can be represented in my work through exploration of the duality between weakness and strength.

The body of work is composed of sculptural vessels. I use this form to represent human beings as iconic symbols of the Korean culture. In Korea, when people talk about someone’s personality, we often use “vessel” as a metaphor of one’s spirit of tolerance. For instance, when we talk about someone who is very generous or broadminded, we say, “His vessel is big”. 

The work incorporates organic and architectural elements into the structure of my open vessels and uses the shape as a metaphor for people who interact with their external character. I believe when the vessel of a person is open, they can have true connections with their environment. Therefore, my open vessel shaped pieces indicate various depths of personal relationships. In addition, through employing the natural and organic arboreal shapes, I intend to demonstrate relationships with nature. I use these natural occurrences in nature as metaphorical and literal references to represent human relationships. As nature cannot exist without the interaction of its many component parts, man cannot exist alone. In this sense, human relationships resemble the laws of nature.

I usually use handbuilding techniques because the marks left by the fabricating process is very direct and leaves evidence of my physical interactions with clay. When I work with clay, my interactive conversation with the clay is vital to the process. While I slowly build up clay coils from the bottom, my hand marks remain on the surface. It records elements of movement, time and my feelings. The attractive characteristic of coil building is that it allows artists to observe progressive growth through the process of the work. The process is very similar to raising a plant from seedling to blossoming. As a plant needs water, sunshine and time to grow, my works need patience and time. The process of building up the blocks, memories of patience and time into the pieces, I am able to create a meaningful record of my practice.

A new series of artwork is currently in development, please check back soon.
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Yoonjee Kwak is an artist and educator originally from South Korea. With a passion for expression through art, Yoonjee has worked in a variety of artist residencies and has taught workshops both nationally and internationally, while showcasing her art in numerous venues.

Yoonjee is a former Long–term resident artist of the Archie Bray Foundation, MT (2017–2019), and Pottery Northwest, WA (2021–2022). She received her MFA in ceramics from Rochester Institute of Technology, NY, and her BFA in ceramics and glass from Hong–Ik University in Seoul, South Korea.

In recognition of her exceptional talent, Yoonjee has been awarded the James Renwick Alliance Chrysalis Award for emerging artists in Ceramics (2020) and the Emerging Artist Award in Ceramics Monthly Magazine (2016). Currently, Yoonjee serves as the Ceramic Faculty in the Visual Arts Department at the prestigious Loomis Chaffee School in CT.